5 Best Things to Eat in Rio de Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer, Brazil

From Carne de Sol to Acai Berry Drinks

Everyone wants to sample the Brazilian barbecue at a churrascaria while in Rio de Janeiro, but visitors should plan on venturing beyond rodizio and checking out some of the other regional specialties- like the nutrient-rich acai berry. Here’s a quick guide that will have you dining like a Carioca (as residents of Rio are called) in no time.

Carne de Sol, a Blast from the Past

Carne de Sol

Carne de sol is a rustic dish that harks back to days gone by. Portuguese for “sun beef,” carne de sol is, as you might expect, is a form of dehydrated beef. In earlier times, meat was preserved through a combination of salt-curing and drying with wind and sun out of necessity. Although all modern preservation methods are now available, carne de sol continues to be a popular traditional food with a rightful place in Brazilian cuisine. To prepare carne de sol to serve, the meat is rehydrated to moisten it and remove some of the saltiness, then added to soups, stews or other meat dishes.

For a straight forward take on carne de sol, try the microbrewery Cervejaria Devassa on Avenida General San Martin in Leblon. Their hearty version, inexplicably named after Bonnie and Clyde, is simply a tasty chewy mound of shredded beef and sweet onions, topped with chunks of fried cassava (also called manioc or yuca). With a cold Devassa beer on the side, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Acai Berry Drink and Other Fruit Drinks

dessert with nuts and blackberry toppings

Sucos are fruit drinks popular in Rio. There is no way to overstate the popularity of the trendy suco de acai (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) which is made from the fruit of an Amazonian palm tree. The acai berry is credited with being able to improve sexual performance, reduce cholesterol, improve sleep, and just about everything in between. The acai berry drink itself exudes healthfulness. Made with crushed ice and frozen acai berry pulp (and sometimes a bit of manioc flour), the drink is a deep opaque purple color.

In some places the concoction is served in a bowl with a spoon and eaten like a sorbet, while other places offer bowls of frozen acai berry pulp served with granola or bananas for the ultimate healthy breakfast jump-start. An ice-cold acai berry smoothie is a must after day on Copacabana Beach.

While on the subject of sucos, suco de abacaxi com hortelã is another fruit drink made from fresh pineapple chunks and mint leaves. Visitors to Rio de Janeiro will find many juice bar cafes throughout the city. These casual restaurants offer long lists of sucos in every fruit flavor you’ve ever heard of (and a few you haven’t). One of the best is the pineapple and mint smoothie, which is a lovely, frothy green. This is a great drink to recharge after a long day of touring, and has the benefit of being easily reproducible once you are back at home.

Heavenly Pão de queijo and Earthy Feijoada

Pão de queijo

Pão de queijo, meaning “cheese bread” is a simple delicious snack that can be enjoyed morning, noon, or night in Rio, and in the whole state of Minas Gerais for that matter. Frequently served at breakfast, these small ping-pong ball-sized treats are made of cassava flour (also called tapioca starch) mixed with mild cheese and baked. They are dense, chewy, and addictive. You will also find them for sale in nearly every bakery and lanchonete you stroll past. Best when hot and fresh pão de queijo is one street food you will definitely want to check out during your visit.

Feijoada

Feijoada is another simple yet elegant choice which has the added distinction of being Brazil’s national dish. Basically a weighty black bean stew containing pork or beef, it might be served topped with bits of crunchy fried pork rind, coarsely ground cassava flour, or other toppings, with some hot sauce on the side to spice it up to your liking. If you want to really go native, order a caipirinha or cachaça to go with your feijoada. Just be sure you have time for a nap afterwards.

Marvelous City, Marvelous Food

Rio de Janeiro is known as the Cidade Maravilhosa, or “Marvellous City.” These dishes are just a few of the culinary treats that you will find when wandering Rio’s neighborhoods. Make sure you sample a few of them in your Brazilian travels to get a real taste of what makes Rio so marvellous.